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Virginia Ethics Reform May Not Go Far Enough, Expert Says

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With former Republican governor Bob McDonnell and his wife facing 14 counts of public corruption, ethics reform was at the top of the agenda as lawmakers gathered in Richmond this year. But, so far, the effort is leaving many with the feeling that more could be done.

"Asking lawmakers to regulate themselves is appealing to the lawmakers, but it may fall short of the kind of reforms that a lot of people would be looking for," says Stephen Farnsworth, professor at the University of Mary Washington.

Farnsworth says an advisory council that would be created by the bill could play an important role by reviewing and posting disclosure forms. But the $250 limit on gifts might be a problem if the limit applies to individual items rather than the total amount that lobbyists can give.

"A gift cap and an advisory council is really the minimum that would need to be done to tighten the rules," Farnsworth says.

For example, Farnsworth says, online reporting could be required so that lawmakers disclose investments and gifts in real time rather than once a year.

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